Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Kaikoura to Winter Warmth


With fine weather forecast for the next couple of days we left Kaikoura heading for one of our favourite spots, the DOC Campground at Marfells Beach. Over summer it's usually a toss up between Marfells and Ward Beach which isn't too far away. But over winter when the sun drops behind the hill early at Ward Beach the choice is a lot easier....unless it's blowing a gale. But then neither sites would be very nice.

Being the weekend, there were a few other like minder people already set up on the front row sites.

This didn't worry us as our favoured site is right at the end of the camping ground, which is a long thin area between the road and the beach. 

Except that our spot was fenced off so we went and made a mess in the next section. Actually we didn't but somebody had made a bit of a mess in the mud behind us.

Our site doesn't have any shelter shrubs so if the wind does get up we can get a bit of a battering. We were staying hitched up this time, so it would have been no issue to move if the wind did arrive.

It was great to be beside the ocean again, and lovely to have such warm weather; it almost felt like summer. Sunrise the next morning was beautiful as it rose up behind Cape Palliser across the Strait providing us with a silhouetted view of the North Island, our first sight in a quite a few months.

While I was taking my sunrise photos, a large dog came bounding up the beach barking it's head off at me, like this was her patch and what the hell was I doing in it. Her owner had slept in his car in the boat trailer carpark and we'd seen the dog wandering about the evening before. 

Being a DOC camp, dogs are banned, but once again there are people out there that choose to ignore the rules. I thumped my hand on the picnic table and told her to 'get home' in my gruffest voice. She did turn around but when I next looked she was making her way up a nearby track towards me. I made a hasty retreat inside.

Sunday morning in the fast lane.

There's also a couple of camping areas behind the front row and up on a rise overlooking the beach. It's here that I found Judy & Len who had already stopped by to say hello. They've been following my blog for awhile and got a surprise to see us arrive. It was lovely to meet you both and I hope you enjoyed Ward Beach.

I usually walk east along the beach to Mussel Point from where you can see Cape Campbell and lighthouse in the distance, but the first morning I walked west. There's a large jetty sticking out into Clifford Bay off in the distance and I've been meaning to walk to it everytime we've stopped at Marfells. It was such a lovely day I decided today was the day. 

You can certainly see where the prevailing wind comes from here on the bluff above the road, just before the camp. Part of these clay cliffs came down onto the road, closing it for a number of days, during the August, 2013 Seddon earthquake. There was a 4.3 magnitude earthquake near Seddon while we were at Marfells this time- we were walking on the beach and never felt it luckily.

I knew it was going to be quite a walk even though the jetty looked to be closer than it was. It turned out to be just over 3kms one way. Usually that wouldn't be a problem, but unfortunately I'd left my run too late and the tide was about 2/3rds of the way in. The nice firm sand I started walking on soon turned to 'very hard to walk on' soft, sinking sand as the tide pushed me up the beach. It was hard going.

Beach shelter
Half way along I made my way up into the dunes and found a 4WD track which was a tiny bit easier to walk along. And then that ran onto a firm farm track which followed the fence-line along the back of the dunes. Lake Grassmere and Dominion Salt's, salt ponds are on the other side of the fence. The ponds aren't the gorgeous pink colour that they are in late spring and early summer when the algae blooms. The link above is to a blog I did on the ponds and Marfells when we first visited the area over two years ago.

I knew I was getting close to the jetty when I popped up near this cool Land Rover. I'd seen it atop the dunes from way back. A guy was teaching his partner to surf cast.

It was then just a short walk to the jetty where another fisherman was trying his luck off the end of the structure. This is the old Dominion Salt Works jetty and it looks rather out of place, high and dry and stuck on a beach in the middle of a very large bay.

Clifford Bay was where the Government was looking at sending the Cook Strait ferries, shifting the terminal from Picton to the bay. Perhaps 'the powers that be' were thinking of using the jetty as part of the ferry terminal! 

Photos taken (another jetty to add to my bridge/jetty collection), it's time to retrace my steps. This time, all the way along the fence-line back to the road. The Land Rover was still in the dunes.

The only other people I saw on the walk were these two on their horses out for a lovely Sunday afternoon trek.

I found their vehicle back on the road. I'm not sure whether they stayed overnight but what a great way to see the countryside. A float to transport your steeds and a campervan to meet your needs. 

The sunset was stunning, a warm golden glow bathing the bay and silhouetting the Norfolk Pines in camp. It also highlighted how much salt spray was in the air.

The next morning I walked to Mussel Point (you can see the point in the breakfast photo) just a short 1.5km away but making sure I had plenty of firm sand this time!

Looking back towards camp
Along the way I spied this White-faced Heron/Matuku checking out clumps of seaweed...

...and a hundred or so Red-billed Gulls/Tarapunga squawking and squabbling as they sorted through a large patch of exposed seaweed. 

By the time I reached Mussel Point, the tide was on its way back in. There are good sized mussels on the rocks near the back, David has managed to get a good few when we've visited during the summer.

Further on from the point, the bay sweeps around to Cape Campbell and the prominent lighthouse on it's point.

That walk is also on my 'to-do list' but it'll have to wait until summer, it's another 5kms to the Cape and you have to time it right with the tides. The beach is blocked by the tide beneath the bluffs that I've just passed on my way to Mussel Point.

The weather clouded over mid afternoon so we decided to head to Blenheim, just a short distance away. We parked up at our regular stop-over, the Blenheim Racecourse where we have a 'secret' spot to park. It's sheltered and private....except on darts night which happened to be last night (through that door beneath the grandstand!). It's also not so good during winter as it takes awhile for the sun to make an appearance around the front of the grandstand. 

It was lovely to meet two Blenheim couples (separately) who went out of their way to come and say hello to us while we were parked at the racecourse. They follow my blog and belong to a couple of motorhome Facebook pages I contribute to. 

Hi Diane & Roger and Brenda & Robert, many thanks for stopping by and hopefully we'll meet up on the road somewhere in the future- and next time, hopefully, we'll be prepared for visitors!  We had a bit of a late start and I was still in the shower when the first couple came knocking and David was in the shower for the next couple! Such is life on the road. Where there's not much room to hide! 

The sunset that night was spectacular...

I love the way the swirl of the clouds mirrors the sweep of the branches; it's like the tree is painting the colours across the sky.

And today we've shifted again, we're now parked at a NZMCA CAP in Koromiko, which is just a short 8kms from Picton and a 3 hour ferry ride to some winter warmth! Now that was a surprise wasn't it? 

We're heading back to the North Island for a couple of months, to catch up with family and friends. We're a couple of months ahead of our original schedule but decided we'd visit over winter and come back south in early spring when nature will be all bright and breezy and hopefully the weather will be a little more settled. 

See you on the other side.


  1. going walkabout/judy& len7 July 2016 at 15:02

    thankyou,for all the amazing photo,s and the little stories that go with them we really do enjoy your blog so much and seeing just how very lucky we are to live in such a beautuful country . once again it was a delight to meet you both and look forward to maybe meeting again somewhere out there ,take care and safe travels judy & len (going walkabout ,marfells ) .

    1. Thanks very much Judy & Len for your kind words, it was a pleasure to meet you both too and also to know that you're enjoying the blog and photos. Until our paths cross again, safe travels.

  2. Hi Shellie, since the earthquake, Marfells Beach has changed. It is even nicer now in my opinion. A real sandy beach whereas it used to have more rocks. So maybe we can look forward to another chapter from you.

    I love your pics. (:


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